Payment for work completed on a construction project is great news. You’ve provided labor and materials, put blood, sweat and tears into the project, and you are entitled to be paid for that work. Sometimes, that payment comes with some paperwork requirements, which is not unusual, unless it is for you.
Depending on what has already transpired (i.e. if you have filed a construction lien on the property), different documents may need to be provided to the owner or contractor. Florida lien law does require that a release of lien be filed once the construction lien claim has been resolved, and it is something that the property owner will demand. In many cases, a lien waiver, which the owner may call a lien release, is required prior to all payment, including the final payment.
Below we will discuss some of the usual paperwork processes that take place when you’re doing work in Florida and have either been paid or are expecting payment.
The Florida Lien Release as a Tool for Payment
You didn’t get paid on a Florida project, so you filed a construction lien. It turns out that the lien was extremely effective, and the owner now wants to make sure you are paid for the work you did. But there’s a catch: the owner wants a lien release… a piece of paperwork that makes you wonder if you’re actually going to get paid, or just release all your lien rights.
Alleviate your concerns by knowing that Florida lien releases are a typical part of getting paid after a construction lien has been filed. The lien discharge is the final step in the process, ensuring that the lien you filed against the construction project’s property is removed from the records because you were paid for the work performed.
When to Prepare a Florida Lien Release
After the lien is filed, the owner or the contractor who owes you money is alerted to the fact that you are making a claim against the property upon which work was performed. This can set in motion any number of reactions, but the most common one (and the purpose of filing the lien claim) is to offer payment to satisfy the construction lien. The owner typically only has a limited amount of time to avoid a court action to enforce the lien, such as 1 year from the filing date of the lien. This puts pressure to resolve the claim quickly without litigation. That is why filing a construction lien can be so effective in obtaining payment.
In exchange for the payment, however, the owner typically asks for either a release of lien or a discharge of lien. They both mean the same thing: that you will, in exchange for payment, provide a document that removes, discharges or releases the construction lien from the property records, allowing the owner to move on without anything encumbering the title to its property.
Note that caution should be used when providing a lien release. Once a lien is released, it is difficult to reinstate it, even if you have not been paid, and may require litigation to ask a court to allow the reinstatement of the lien.
In many cases, it is wise to provide the document after payment is made. One of the reasons for this timing is that the owner has substantial rights once it has made payment. If there is a failure by the lien claimant to permit the lien’s removal, the owner will be able to ask the court to remove it, and potentially be awarded penalties and attorneys’ fees that the claimant will have to pay for its failure to provide the lien release.
In some cases, providing the lien release prior to payment is acceptable, especially when an attorney is involved who agrees to hold the lien release document and not file it until the money is transferred to the lien claimant. Because the attorneys are bound by their obligations to the state bar and the courts, it is unlikely that they will file the lien release prior to payment being made.
Another way to resolve the timing issue is to provide the lien release simultaneously with obtaining payment. This would occur, generally, in person, and the discharge document would be provided at the same time the money is exchanged. While logistically it may be complicated to meet to do this, it may be the safest way of accomplishing the goal.
What Are the Steps Involved in Preparing and Filing a Lien Release in Florida?
From a general point of view, preparing and filing a lien release in Florida is not difficult. But it can look overwhelming if you have not done it before. LienItNow makes completing and filing a lien release simple. You complete our online form based on your specific information. Our website generates the form you need, and you review it. You then sign and return the documents for filing and service.
When you are preparing and filing a lien release in Florida, you must make sure the right parties get it, and that it is filed with the correct government entity.
- In addition to other information relating to the project location, the lien claimant’s information as well as the property owner’s information, the lien release should include the filing information that the government clerk placed on the original lien, including the date it was filed, in what county it was filed, as well as any recording numbers (such as book and page or instrument numbers) that was assigned to the lien by the clerk.
- The lien release must be filed with the same clerk with whom the original construction lien was filed.
- If the lien claimant is filing it, the lien release should be provided to the owner and to whomever you have a contract so that they are aware that it has been recorded.
What’s the Difference Between a Lien Waiver and a Release of Lien?
The words “Lien Waiver” and “Lien Release” sound like they are similar, if not the same, documents, but the effects of these two documents are dramatically different. A lien waiver is designed to ensure that the owner knows that workers or suppliers have been paid for the work performed during a construction project. Lien waivers are generally exchanged as a matter of course, especially on larger projects, when an invoice or payment requisition is submitted. The lien waiver indicates that the person or company submitting it has been paid up to date for all work contained in its prior invoices or payment requisitions, and that it expects to be paid for the current pay period. In most cases, if a contractor has not been paid for its prior payment requests, it should not sign a lien waiver, or it may be giving up its rights to payment for work performed.
On the other hand, a release of lien is provided or filed when a lien claim has been recorded, and payment was thereafter made. A lien waiver is not enough to release the construction lien from the property records.
Importantly, if the owner or person with whom you have a contract does make the payment, the contractor is required to file a release of the lien so that it is no longer imposed on the property and no longer clouds the title to the property.